Visitors from near and far packed the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Center at San Juan Capistrano to see contestants participate in feats of skill and stamina for the 18th Annual Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo.
The audience cheered and clapped as cowboys maintained their composure on bulls and horses that leapt high into the air, or when one of those cowboys roped off a calf in seconds.
Outside the arena, visitors meandered through vendor booths selling everything from kettle corn to cowboy hats.
The rodeo happened on Aug. 25 and Aug. 26, but residents of Rancho Mission Viejo were celebrating before the event happened.
On Aug. 24, people who lived in the Esencia and Sendero villages were treated to a sneak preview of rodeo events during, “Rodeo 101.”
Those residents were bused out to Rancho Mission Viejo’s historic cow camp where they got to see ranch cowboys demonstrate team roping.
Reno Rosser of the Flying U Rodeo Company, which provides some of the stock for the rodeo, then took them to see some of the rodeo horses and answered their rodeo-related questions.
Tony Moiso, Rancho Mission Viejo CEO, said visitors are often surprised to find themselves in the middle of the historic cow camp not far from their homes.
“Most of them will say this is a beautiful place,” Moiso said. “They didn’t know it existed.”
Moiso said some of his earliest memories were of the cow camp. He said he remembers vaqueros hard at work over 75 years ago.
He said that in the end, events such as the Rancho Mission Viejo Rodeo and Rodeo 101 are all about showing South Orange County residents something that — in a lot of cases — they haven’t seen before.
“The cowboy world — it still exists right here,” he said. “We try to share that with them.”